Egypt: Extremism and Terrorism

On December 30, 2022, two gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, killing at least three and wounding four others. Police killed one of the attackers, while the other escaped. ISIS claimedresponsibility through its Amaq news agency. It was reportedly the first terrorist attack in mainland Egypt in almost three years. (Sources: Agence France-Presse; Agence France-Presse)

On May 29, 2022, an Egyptian court sentenced Abdel-Monaem Abul Fetouh and Mahmoud Ezzat, two Islamist leaders, to 15 years in prison for disseminating false news and inciting against state institutions. Fetouh is a former presidential candidate and head of the Islamist Strong Egypt party, and Ezzat was the acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim Fetouh and Ezzat’s trial was part of a government crackdown on dissent that targeted Islamist political opponents as well as pro-democracy activists, journalists, and online critics. (Source: Associated Press)

On May 20, 2022, the U.S. Department of State revoked its designation of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). IG, which was first designated in 1997, was an Egyptian Sunni Islamist movement that fought to topple Egypt’s government in the 1990s. The group was headed by Abdel Rahman, a radical Islamist and U.S. resident who allegedly inspired the deadly 1993 bombing of New York City’s World Trade Center. According to the State Department, the group was “no longer engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity” and no longer has the “capability and intent to do so.” (Sources: France 24, U.S. Department of State)
In February 2018, the Egyptian military began an ongoing operation called Sinai 2018 to capture or kill ISIS militants in the northern and central Sinai. On September 10, 2021, prominent Sinai Province leader Mohamed Saad Kamel, a.k.a. Abu Hamza al-Qadi, turned himself in to the Association of Sinai Tribes, which coordinates with the Egyptian military. In March 2021, the Egyptian government began implementing major economic development projects in the Sinai to further dissuade extremists. Despite the successes of Egypt’s counterextremism initiatives, ISIS’s Sinai Province has continued to sporadically carry out attacks in and around the Sinai Peninsula.  (Sources: Al-Monitor, Times of Israel, Al-Monitor)

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have accused Egypt of failing to hold its forces accountable. A September 2021 Human Rights Watch report concluded dozens of alleged armed militants killed in so-called shootouts with Egyptian forces did not pose an imminent danger to security forces or others when they were killed. In many cases, the suspects were already in custody when they were killed. Human Rights Watch has called on the United States, European Union, and Egypt’s other international allies to impose sanctions on Egyptian officials and for Egyptian authorities to fully investigate incidents of extrajudicial killings. (Sources: Reuters, Human Rights Watch)

Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has become a battleground between the Egyptian army and ISIS-affiliate Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province). The group claimed responsibility for the crash of a Russian airliner on October 31, 2015, which killed more than 200 people. The group also claimed responsibility for a November 24, 2015, attack on an Egyptian hotel that killed seven, including two judges supervising the country’s parliamentary elections. Previously operating as Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis, Wilayat Sinai has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers since 2011. Egypt continues to extend an October 2014 state of emergency in the northern Sinai, where Wilayat Sinai primarily operates. (Sources: Independent, Reuters, BBC News, Reuters, Al Jazeera, New York Times, Human Rights Watch, AllAfrica)

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization. It has been outlawed and subjected to harsh crackdowns in response to terrorist acts over its 80-year-plus history. After the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won the country’s presidential elections in June 2012. The army removed Morsi from power in August 2013 after a brutal government crackdown on Egyptian protesters. Former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi replaced Morsi as president. Egypt again outlawed the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has continued to clash with Egyptian authorities. (Source: Counter Extremism Project)

Ongoing terrorism has resulted in Egyptian deaths and has hurt the country’s tourism industry and overall economy. El-Sisi has pledged to destroy the Brotherhood and all extremist groups in Egypt. His government has passed a series of harsh counterterrorism laws, which critics say restrict free speech, freedom of the press, and human rights. (Sources: CNN, Jerusalem Post, Business Insider)


The “Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed” by extremism, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared in January 2015, calling for a “religious revolution” in Egypt. Two months later, he lamented that “the ideology we sanctify should make our entire nation a source of concern, danger, killing and destruction all over the world.” Egypt faces a “ferocious war against terrorism and extremism,” el-Sisi said in September 2015. (Sources: Associated Press, CNN, Jerusalem Post)

Violent extremist groups have operated in Egypt for decades, and were responsible for heinous acts such as the 1981 assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat and the 1997 bombing of the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor that killed 62 people. In May 2014, the government charged 200 members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the Muslim Brotherhood for coordinating 51 recent terror attacks and conspiring with Hamas and al-Qaeda. Critics have also accused the Egyptian government of spurring extremism through repression. (Sources: Associated Press, Daily Mail, Al Jazeera)

Nasser and Pan-Arabism

Pan-Arabism’s views of Western imperialism inspired the rise of Middle Eastern dictators such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Gemal Abdel Nasser assumed Egypt’s presidency in 1953 after leading a coup against King Farouk. Nasser promoted the idea of pan-Arab unity, commonly referred to as Nasserism or pan-Arabism. He envisioned a unified Arab federation led by Egypt and considered pan-Arabism an assertion of Arab independence from Western imperialism. Nasser viewed Israel as a symbol of Western imperialism. He created an alliance with the Soviet Union, which armed Egypt and helped it project an image of strength in the region. (Sources: BBC News, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, New York Times)

Pan-Arabism’s views of Western imperialism inspired the rise of Middle Eastern dictators such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who led revolutions in their countries against U.S.- and U.K.-backed governments. Gaddafi emerged as a possible heir to the Nasserism philosophy in the 1970s, when he attempted to merge Libya and Egypt into a single state. Observers believed Gaddafi’s plan was the first step in the fulfillment of a new pan-Arabism with Libya at the helm. (Source: Foreign Affairs, Politico, New York Times)

After the Brotherhood attempted to assassinate Nasser in 1954, he began a repressive crackdown on the group until 1966. As a result, the Brotherhood further radicalized and began a series of attempted assassinations and terrorist plots. (Source: Counter Extremism Project)

Government Repression

Critics accuse the Egyptian government of using terrorism as an excuse to silence political opposition and restrict civil rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported in June 2015 that Egypt has imprisoned at least 19 journalists, the highest number reported since CPJ began keeping records in 1990. Egypt convicted three Al Jazeera journalists—an Egyptian, an Australian, and a Canadian—in June 2014 for aiding a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Six other Al Jazeera journalists were tried in absentia. Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, which the Egyptian government believes supports the Brotherhood and other Islamist activities. The three were retried and sentenced to three years each in August 2015 for allegedly broadcasting “false news.” Egypt had previously deported the Australian, who was sentenced in absentia. The United Nations and the European Union condemned the sentences as assaults on press freedom. The journalists were pardoned and released in September 2015, along with 100 activists. (Sources: Committee to Protect Journalists, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Associated Press)

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights reported that the government had detained, charged, or sentenced at least 41,000 people between July 2013 and May 2015, and held many without trial. Prisons have operated at 160 percent capacity and police stations at 300 percent. Those targeted have primarily been part of political activist or opposition groups. Egyptian authorities arrested investigative journalist Ismail Alexandrani on November 29, 2015, for “spreading false news” and “joining a banned organization.” A December 2015 Washington Post editorial blamed government restrictions on civil rights for strengthening Egypt’s radical organizations and extremists. (Sources: Al Jazeera, Seattle Times, Al Jazeera, Washington Post)

Increasing numbers of Egyptian youth have reportedly radicalized in response to government crackdowns on protesters since 2013. Dissenters wounded during anti-government protests increasingly believe “armed struggle” is the only way to achieve their goals. Some of these students have declared support for ISIS’s insurgency in the Sinai as a result. Basem Zakaria al-Samargi of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights believes many previously non-political youth “now want vengeance from the state.” The University of Manchester’s Jerome Devon accused the government of aligning Egypt’s Islamists with ISIS and fueling a desire for revenge among Egyptian youth. He believes the government has created a “self-fulfilling prophecy” by suppressing peaceful protest. (Source: Associated Press)


In 2015, CNN dubbed Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula “the new front line in the battle against ISIS.” ISIS’s Egyptian franchise, Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province), has targeted Egyptian and Israeli interests in the Sinai since 2011. Wilayat Sinai claimed credit for the destruction of Russian flight 9268 and the deaths of all 224 people on board on October 31, 2015. The group has staged increasingly bloodier attacks on the Egyptian military since July 2015. For example, Wilayat Sinai attacked an Egyptian military position in the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwaid that month, killing dozens of Egyptian soldiers and police. It also began urging Egyptians not to cooperate with authorities. Wilayat Sinai has attacked foreign workers in the region, such as the August 2015 beheading of a Croatian engineer who worked for a French energy company in Egypt. Throughout February 2017, Egyptian women reported multiple instances of ISIS militants boarding buses in the Sinai and threatening them with whippings and acid if they do not comply with ISIS’s strict dress codes. Simultaneously, ISIS has kidnapped and murdered Egyptians in the Sinai suspected of aiding security forces against the group. (Sources: CNN, BBC News, Independent, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press)

Days after an April 14, 2018, attack that killed eight Egyptian soldiers, the Egyptian military claimed it had killed Naser Abou Zaqoul, the leader of Wilayat Sinai. (Sources: Associated Press, Associated Press)

Some observers believe ISIS is building up its forces in the Sinai for a larger purpose. According to the Heritage Foundation, ISIS sees the Sinai as a “stepping stone” to Israel and Jerusalem. Researchers from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) believe ISIS has increasingly called on Gazans and Egyptians to join the group because Egypt is the “gateway towards the liberation of Palestine.” MEMRI also called the Wilayat Sinai “one of the most powerful and effective” of ISIS’s branches outside its core base. (Source: Washington Times)

ISIS’s Egyptian franchise, Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province), has targeted Egyptian and Israeli interests in the Sinai since 2011.

Analysts estimate Wilayat Sinai has between 1,000 and 1,500 members. It grew out of the terrorist group Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis (ABM), which came into being after the 2011 fall of President Hosni Mubarak. ABM was responsible for killing hundreds of Egyptian soldiers in attacks across the Sinai. ABM began by targeting Israeli interests, firing rockets into Israel, launching cross-border attacks on Israeli soldiers, and bombing the natural-gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel. After the army deposed President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, ABM began assassinating Egyptian officials and targeting Egyptian infrastructure. The Cairo Court of Urgent Matters labeled ABM a terrorist organization in April 2014. ABM pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that November and changed its name to Wilayat Sinai. (Sources: New York Times, BBC News, Egypt Independent, CNN)

Following a March 10, 2017, double bombing of Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria, Egypt declared a three-month state of emergency across the country. Egypt had previously declared a state of emergency in northern parts of the Sinai after a series of October 2014 attacks killed more than 30 soldiers. The government had continued to extend the northern Sinai state of emergency every three months. Egypt began a military crackdown on Wilayat Sinai in July 2015, following the public assassination of the country’s chief prosecutor. On August 4, 2016, Egyptian forces claimed to have killed Wilayat Sinai leader Abu Duaa al-Ansari, along with more than 45 other members of the group. According to a military statement, Egyptian forces also destroyed “a number of weapon and ammunition stores, and their explosives.” (Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Al Jazeera, AllAfrica, CNN)

In November 2016, Egypt’s public prosecutor charged 292 suspected ISIS militants in a military tribunal. One purported cell of six police officers and a dentist allegedly planned to assassinate Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. A Saudi Arabia-based cell allegedly planned to assassinate that country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Only 151 of the suspects were in Egyptian custody. Seven had been released on bail while the rest remained at-large. Sixty-six of the suspects had reportedly confessed. (Sources: Reuters, Agence France-Presse)

ISIS has increasingly targeted Egyptian Christians, including bombings against Coptic Christian churches in March 2017 and December 2016, and an incident in February 2017 in which the group shot and killed a Christian man and then burned his son alive. In February 2017, ISIS in Egypt released a video featuring Abu Abdullah al-Masri, who blew himself up at a Coptic church in Cairo in December 2016, killing 28 people. ISIS also showed images of the Coptic pope and other community members, calling Christians their “favorite prey.” ISIS signed the video as the Islamic State in Egypt, which the Egyptian government and media observers believe signifies that Wilayat Sinai rebranded itself to demonstrate its ability to reach beyond the Sinai. Also that month, in a demonstration of their willingness to act beyond the Sinai, ISIS militants there fired multiple rockets at Israel, resulting in no injuries or damage. On March 10, 2017, Israel temporarily closed its border with Egypt for the Passover holiday and urged its citizens to leave the Sinai because the situation was “life threatening,” according to the Israeli intelligence ministry. (Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Times of Israel)

As of March 2017, ISIS claimed to have formed a religious police force, Hasbah, in the Sinai. On March 28, 2017, ISIS released a video on the encrypted messaging service Telegram of the Hasbah beheading two Egyptians accused of witchcraft and sorcery. (Source: Reuters)

The Sinai Province renewed its pledge of allegiance to ISIS in June 2019. That November, the Egyptian branch pledged allegiance to ISIS’s new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi. (Sources: Long War Journal, Reuters)

Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood originated in Egypt in 1928. It is the country’s oldest Islamist movement. The Egyptian government banned the group in the 1950s and imprisoned large numbers of Brotherhood members. The Brotherhood also benefitted from intermittent periods of toleration by the Egyptian government, during which it continued its social, religious, economic, and political activities, building up organizational strength unmatched by any other Egyptian opposition group. (Source: Counter Extremism Project)

As the Arab Spring came to a head in 2011, the Brotherhood’s resilience and robust infrastructure left it well placed to capitalize in Egypt. Egyptian voters elected senior Brotherhood official Mohammed Morsi as president in June 2012, and the group’s Freedom and Justice Party won a plurality of parliamentary seats. (Source: Counter Extremism Project)

Following mass protests, the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi in July 2013 and called for new presidential and parliamentary elections. The military arrested Morsi and hundreds of other Brotherhood officials and members on various charges. In December 2013, Egypt outlawed the group, designating it a terrorist organization. The High Administrative Court dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party on August 9, 2014. Morsi died on June 17, 2019. He was serving an Egyptian prison sentence of 48 years for charges relating to spying, killing of protesters, and insulting the judiciary. (Sources: Counter Extremism Project, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Deutsche Welle)

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led the army’s overthrow of Morsi, accuses the Brotherhood of complicity in violence across the country. More than 250 Brotherhood supporters died in clashes with the Egyptian military following Morsi’s ouster. The Brotherhood looted and burned Egyptian churches and police stations in August 2013 in response to the death of hundreds and imprisonment of thousands of members. The government also blamed the Brotherhood for a December 2013 car bombing that killed 15 people and wounded hundreds. The government blamed Brotherhood-affiliated Islamists after a car bomb killed Egypt’s chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat on June 29, 2015, though the Brotherhood blamed the Egyptian regime. In March 2016, the government blamed Hamas for conspiring with the Brotherhood to assassinate Barakat. He was killed by a car bomb in Cairo in June 2015. He was the most senior government official to have been assassinated since the overthrow of Morsi. (Sources: Counter Extremism Project, Guardian)

In May 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 100 supporters, and Morsi—already serving a 20-year prison sentence for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters—to death for their roles in a 2011 prison break. An Egyptian court upheld the death sentence in June 2015, though it is subject to further appeal. Government forces continued to arrest and violently clash with Brotherhood members throughout 2015. (Sources: Counter Extremism Project, BBC News, Associated Press, U.S. Department of State)

Nine Brotherhood members—including a former parliamentarian—died during a police raid on a Cairo apartment in July 2015. Authorities said the nine were planning terrorist attacks and had weapons and thousands of dollars in the apartment. The Brotherhood called the incident a “turning point” and called for a revolution in Egypt. (Source: Associated Press)

The Egyptian government accuses the Brotherhood of fomenting anti-government sentiment across the country. In January 2020, Egyptian authorities accused Hasm of seeking to disrupt the anniversary of Mubarak’s overthrow by promoting fake news and spreading discord among Egyptians. The government arrested six Hasm members accused of plotting to “target important figures and buildings as well as places of worship” and organize protests on the anniversary later that month. Egypt accused Brotherhood members in Turkey of orchestrating the plots and inciting the Egyptian public against the government. (Sources: Agence France-Presse, Middle East Monitor)

Egyptian forces have also continued to violently clash with Brotherhood members. In September 2019, Egyptian police killed six Brotherhood members in 6 October City near Cairo. Police accused the group of planning “a series of terror operations.” Sisi accused the Brotherhood of orchestrating protests against him that month. Sisi has decried so-called political Islam for destabilizing the entire region. According to Sisi, the Egyptian public will not again accept the imposition of political Islam. (Sources: Al-Masry al-Youmy, Agence France-Presse, Daily News Egypt)

Sisi’s Egypt has also continued to prosecute members of the Muslim Brotherhood. On January 18, 2021, Egypt’s Court for Urgent Matters ordered the seizure of assets of 89 Brotherhood members, including that of its top leadership. On April 8, 2021, a Cairo court convicted acting supreme guide Mahmoud Ezzat on charges of inciting violence and supplying firearms to protesters in 2013. Ezzat was sentenced to life in prison. In conjunction with his life sentence, on May 29, 2022, a Cairo court sentenced Ezzat to an additional 15 years in prison for disseminating false news and inciting against state institutions. Ezzat was also placed on the country’s terror list. Along with Ezzat, other Brotherhood members have been regularly convicted, with a group of 21 Brotherhood members being sentenced to death on July 30, 2021, by the Damanhour Criminal Court for involvement in a 2015 bus bombing in Beheira. (Sources: Reuters, Middle East Monitor, Anadolu Agency, Middle East Eye, Associated Press)

An Egyptian court sentenced Qaradawi in absentia to death in 2015 in relation to a 2011 prison break during the uprising that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In January 2018, an Egyptian military court sentenced Qaradawi in absentia to life in prison on charges of incitement to murder, spreading false news, and vandalizing public property in relation to the 2015 death of an Egyptian police officer. Qaradawi died in Qatar in September 2022. The following month, the Cairo Criminal Court added Qaradawi to Egypt’s terror list for a minimum of three years. The list also includes 277 other Brotherhood members. (Sources: Middle East Monitor, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera)

On October 15, 2022, the Brotherhood published a new “political document,” dated September 18. According to the document, the Brotherhood is focused on three issues: political prisoners, societal reconciliation, and building a broad national partnership to realize Egyptians’ desires for political and economic reform. To achieve these goals, the document claims the Brotherhood has adopted an approach with “various options and paths” to overcome its internal power struggles. The Brotherhood’s “political role and presence in all public affairs has been, and will remain, a focus of its reform project,” according to the document, which also denied the Brotherhood is seeking political power in Egypt. (Source: Asharq al-Awsat)

On October 26, 2022, the Brotherhood’s Ikhwanweb official English Twitter account posted a series of tweets recognizing “the importance of solidarity with all the honorable factions of Egypt’s people in all its institutions and bodies at home and abroad.” The Brotherhood affirmed it is an “inclusive Islamic body” led by the General Consultative Body. The Brotherhood affirmed Mohamed Badie’s role as its general guide and declared any future decision or directive must be approved by Badie, as well as consultative and executive institutions within Egypt and abroad. (Sources: Twitter, Twitter)


Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Gaza-based Palestinian offshoot. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 when it forcibly expelled the Palestinian Authority (PA) from the coastal enclave. Subjected to a blockade by Egypt and Israel since 2007 and shunned by the international community, Hamas has built a network of smuggling tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. (Source: Counter Extremism Project)

Hamas and Egypt had increasingly better relations during the presidency of the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi. The Egyptian army cracked down on Hamas after Morsi’s July 2013 ouster. An Egyptian court banned Hamas activities in the country in March 2014. The Egyptian army began flooding the underground smuggling tunnels in August 2015. Egypt has largely kept its border crossing with Gaza closed since 2013. In November 2015, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority reportedly negotiated a deal to open the Rafah border crossing, bypassing Hamas. El-Sisi believes the Palestinian Authority needs to reassert its control of Gaza’s border crossings. (Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, Times of Israel, Counter Extremism Project)

Wilayat Sinai leaders have allegedly met with Hamas to discuss military coordination. Hamas has reportedly used its fledgling drone program to spy on Egyptian military positions on behalf of Wilayat Sinai. Hamas has also allegedly smuggled weapons to the group through underground tunnels. Hamas allegedly paid Wilayat Sinai tens of thousands of dollars a month through 2015 to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Israeli media reported in January 2017 that Wilayat Sinai had opened a media propaganda office in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has also reportedly continued to provide medical aid to wounded ISIS fighters from the Sinai. The Times of Israel reported in February 2017 that “dozens” of top Hamas commanders had defected to Wilayat Sinai in the past three years. Israeli officials alleged that former Hamas commanders took part in a July 7, 2017, ISIS attack that killed 23 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula near the Egypt-Gaza border. (Sources: Times of Israel, Algemeiner, YNet News, Times of Israel, Times of Israel, Times of Israel)

In March 2016, Egypt accused Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the June 2015 car bombing that killed Egyptian Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat. Hamas denied the charge. Later that month, Hamas removed all pictures of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and any other signs of Muslim Brotherhood links from its Gaza offices, and Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later denied any links between his group and the Muslim Brotherhood. The move reportedly came after Egyptian officials demanded Hamas renounce its links with the Brotherhood before Egypt would restore relations with Hamas. (Sources: Guardian, Haaretz, Times of Israel, Haaretz)

Despite alleged coordination between Hamas’s military wing and Wilayat Sinai, Hamas and Egypt were reportedly meeting in February 2017 to discuss opening the Gaza-Egypt border in exchange for Hamas assistance against Wilayat Sinai. In late June 2017, Hamas announced that it would build a buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border to deter ISIS militants and other jihadists from crossing into Gaza. (Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Times of Israel)

In October 2017, Egypt negotiated a reconciliation deal between Hamas and its political rival Fatah, the dominant faction of the PA. The two groups signed the deal in Cairo on October 12 to restore the PA’s control over the Gaza Strip and dissolve Hamas’s governing committee. Nevertheless, the two sides continued to disagree on Hamas’s disarmament and PA-imposed sanctions on Gaza, which threatened to derail the reconciliation. (Sources: Associated Press, Times of Israel, Times of Israel)

In 2016, Hamas removed all pictures of Morsi and any other signs of Muslim Brotherhood links from its Gaza offices. The move reportedly came after a meeting between Hamas leaders and Egypt officials who demanded Hamas renounce its links with the Brotherhood before Egypt would restore relations with Hamas. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later denied any links between his group and the Muslim Brotherhood. In May 2017, Hamas released a new guiding political document, which made no mention of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Sources: Middle East Monitor, Haaretz, Hamas, Guardian)

In July 2019, Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide, denied charges of spying for Hamas following the 2013 coup that ousted then-president Mohamed Morsi. According to court documents, el-Shater said he was asked by the intelligence services during Morsi’s one-year tenure to meet Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh over border crossings talks. On September 11, 2019, imprisoned Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and 10 other Brotherhood members were sentenced to life in prison on charges of spying in conjunction with Hamas. (Sources: Middle East Eye, Associated Press)

Egypt has continued to mediate periods of calm between Israel and Hamas. Egypt also agreed in late 2019 to allow Haniyeh to leave the Gaza Strip for the first time in three years to attend high-level meetings in Turkey and Qatar. Haniyeh then attended the January 6, 2020, funeral of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qasem Soleimani in Tehran. Haniyeh’s trip to Tehran reportedly infuriated the Egyptian government, which had expressly forbade him from visiting Iran. (Sources: Times of Israel, Telegraph, Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel)


Hasm (“Decisiveness”) is an Egyptian militant group that emerged in mid-2016. Police suspect it is a violent wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, though the Brotherhood denies any ties to militant groups. Hasm has accused the Egyptian government of imprisoning thousands of innocent people. Hasm has also claimed it wants to end the “military occupation of Egypt by militias of (President) Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.” (Sources: New York Times, BBC News, Reuters)

Hasm claimed responsibility for a December 9, 2016, bombing that killed six police officers outside of Cairo. The group also claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on a senior Egyptian prosecutor that September. Hasm also claimed responsibility for an August 2016 attempted assassination of Egypt’s former grand mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa. Two masked gunmen attacked Gomaa as he was walking to a mosque in a Cairo suburb. Hasm issued a statement that they aborted the assassination because of bystanders around Gomaa. As of December 2016, Hasm had claimed responsibility for at least half a dozen attacks since the group’s emergence that July. (Sources: New York Times, BBC News, Reuters, Middle East Monitor)

On September 30, 2017, Hasm claimed responsibility for a small explosion at Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo. It was the group’s first reported attack on a civilian target. There were no casualties, and Hasm said it ensured that no innocents would be harmed. The group claimed the attack was in response to Myanmar’s military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. In January 2019, Egyptian authorities arrested several Hasm members accused of planning to disrupt the January 25 anniversary of the revolution against Hosni Mubarak. According to the Interior Ministry, a Brotherhood member in Turkey had directed the local Hasm members. In January 2020, Egyptian authorities again accused Hasm of seeking to disrupt the anniversary of Mubarak’s overthrow by promoting fake news and spreading discord among Egyptians. The government arrested six Hasm members accused of plotting to “target important figures and buildings as well as places of worship” and organize protests on the anniversary later that month. (Sources: Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Naharnet, Middle East Monitor)

Other Groups

Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group or IG) was once Egypt’s largest militant group with several thousand members. It is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that formed in the 1970s intent on replacing the Egyptian government with an Islamic state. The IG collaborated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to assassinate President Anwar al-Sadat in October 1981. The United States sentenced IG spiritual leader Umar Abd al-Rahman to life in prison in January 1996 for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Senior IG members signed Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa calling for attacks against the United States. Between 1993 and 1998, the IG claimed several attacks against Egyptian tourists. Most notably, the group carried out the November 1997 attack at the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor that killed 62 people, including 58 foreign tourists. The IG also attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995. While the IG has threatened U.S. interests, it has not specifically attacked U.S. citizens. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, BBC News, CNN, Guardian, Council on Foreign Relations)

There have been no IG attacks in Egypt since 1998. The group agreed to a ceasefire in 1999, which created an ideological divide in its membership. Some members have since gone on to join al-Qaeda, which absorbed IG in August 2006, according to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Hundreds of IG members renounced terrorism and were released from Egypt’s prisons in early 2011 before the country’s revolution. IG formed the Construction and Development political party and won 13 seats in Egypt’s August 2011 parliamentary elections. President Mohammed Morsi appointed IG member Adel el-Khayat as governor of Luxor in 2013, but he quit a week later after public backlash because of IG’s link to the 1997 attack. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, Daily News Egypt, Al Jazeera)

On May 20, 2022, the U.S. Department of State revoked its designation of IG as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). According to the State Department, IG—which was first designated in 1997—was “no longer engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity” and no longer has the “capability and intent to do so.” (Sources: France 24, U.S. Department of State)

Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) emerged in the 1970s intent on replacing the Egyptian government with an Islamic state. The group carried out attacks against high-level U.S. and Egyptian targets. Members of EIJ and the Islamic Group were responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. The EIJ also claimed responsibility for attempted assassinations of Interior Minister Hassan al-Alfi and Prime Minister Atef Sedky in 1993. Egypt executed two EIJ members in February 2001 for planning an August 1998 attack on the U.S. embassy. In October 2000, security forces killed the EIJ’s military leader in charge of armed operations in Qina, Suhaj, and Luxor. The EIJ has not carried out an attack in Egypt since 1993 and merged with al-Qaeda in June 2001. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

Ajnad Misr is a Cairo-based group ABM splinter group formed in January 2014. It is responsible for attacks against government and security targets, primarily in downtown Cairo. On April 2, 2014, for example, Ajnad Misr detonated two improvised explosive devices hidden in a tree near Cairo University. The blasts killed a police brigadier general and wounded five other officers. The U.S. State Department designed Ajnad Misr a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2014. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation or HT) is an international Islamist movement dedicated to creating an Islamic caliphate. HT has more than 40 international chapters. Egypt banned HT in 1974 following a coup attempt. (Sources: Atlantic, Newsweek)

Sayyid Qutb

Western critics label Sayyid Qutb as the father of modern Islamic fundamentalism. Qutb was a leading theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood. Heavily influenced by Abul Ala Maududi’s works, Qutb’s writings on Islamism are among the most popular in the Muslim world. Qutb wrote that Islam was “a revolt against any human situation where sovereignty, or indeed Godhead, is given to human beings.” Qutb believed Islam meant restoring God’s authority over man. He rejected Western secularism and believed the modern state of Egypt to be un-Islamic. While studying in America between 1948 and 1950, Qutb was repulsed by what he perceived to be American indecency. He described churches as “entertainment centers and sexual playgrounds.” He viewed the entirety of American culture as corrupt, unjust, racist, materialistic, and morally vacant. He also detested America’s support of the new country of Israel. (Sources: Guardian, Jamestown Foundation, 9/11 Commission Report)

Qutb was a leading theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qutb’s writings expanded the concept of jahiliyya, which Maududi used to describe the barbaric, ignorant state before the revelation of the Prophet Muhammad. Qutb argued that the world was in a state of new jahiliyya, and that Muslims everywhere were living as blindly and ignorantly as civilization had in the time before Mohammad. Qutb argued that Muslims must return to living in a state of “pure Islam,” which they could accomplish only by waging violent jihad against the non-believers. His two most famous works, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Quran) and Ma’alim fi’l-Tariq (Milestones), were both written in prison. (Sources: Guardian, Jamestown Foundation, 9/11 Commission Report)

Qutb was sentenced to death and hanged for extremist rhetoric and the attempted assassination of President Gemal Abdel Nasser on August 29, 1966. His works inspired future jihadists such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. (Source: New Yorker)

Shahid King Bolsen

Shahid King Bolsen is an American-born convert to Islam, who has inspired a wave of terrorism against government and commercial targets across Egypt through “a distinctive blend of anti-globalization sloganeering and Islamist politics.” Bolsen believes Egypt is “being invaded and occupied by a neoliberal crusade.” Bolsen advocates what analysts have dubbed an “alternative jihad” targeting multinational companies in Egypt. Bolsen supports violence, and believes that non-violent protests are simply opportunities “to get arrested or shot” by authorities. Bolsen believes there “is nothing wrong with armed resistance. Not by Shari’ah, not by International Law, not by logic.” Bolsen also believes the loss of life to prevent future deaths at the hands of Egypt’s security forces “is a price to be paid.” (Sources: Facebook, Foreign Policy)

Bolsen spreads his propaganda through accounts on Twitter, Facebook,, and YouTube, as well as media appearances. In a May 2014 interview posted to YouTube, Bolsen claimed to be the chief analyst of the “Global Anti-Aggression Campaign,” led by radical Saudi cleric Safar al-Hawali. (Sources: Foreign Policy, YouTube)

Bolsen has called for Egyptians to strike against commercial targets such as banks and restaurants. Bolsen considers KFC restaurants to be a symbol of U.S. capitalism and has encouraged attacks against the chain in particular. Bolsen has become popular among young Egyptian Islamists who feel increasingly repressed by government restrictions imposed since the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government but do not belong to larger jihadist groups. Attacks possibly inspired by Bolsen include six bombs in Cairo that wounded four police officers and five civilians on February 26, 2015. Earlier in the month, attacks on two Egyptian KFC restaurants left one dead and wounded two others. Two new groups, the Popular Resistance Movement and Revolutionary Punishment, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The groups are reportedly made up of young Egyptians dissatisfied with the government but unwilling to join larger jihadist groups. Like Bolsen, they call for low-level violence to strike against the regime. (Sources: Foreign Policy, New York Times, Times of Israel)

Bolsen denies ultimate responsibility but believes that Egyptian Islamists have heard his message and “taken matters into their own hands.” He likened it to “if you tell someone to go to the store and get you oranges, and then it turns out they have robbed the store.” In June 2015, Bolsen posted on Facebook a list of addresses of multinational corporations to target in Egypt. That December, Bolsen posted a series of self-defense videos to prepare his following for “any conflict or any confrontation” they might encounter on January 25, 2016, the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s revolution. (Sources: Telegraph, National, Facebook, Facebook, Al Arabiya News)

Bolsen was previously sentenced to death on a murder charge in the United Arab Emirates. He was released in October 2013 on a technicality and fled to Turkey where he began spreading his anti-Egypt propaganda. In March 2017, Bolsen relocated to Malaysia after allegedly being deported from Turkey. (Sources: Foreign Policy, New York Times, Facebook)

Muhammad Jamal Network

The Muhammad Jamal Network is a U.S.- and U.N.-designated terrorist network operating in Egypt. According to the U.S. State Department, founder Muhammad Jamal “journeyed to Afghanistan in the late 1980s where he trained with al-Qa’ida (AQ) and learned how to construct bombs.” Jamal returned to Egypt in the 1990s and led the operational wing of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Upon Jamal’s release from prison in 2011, he created the Muhammad Jamal Network to facilitate suicide-bomber training camps in Egypt and Libya. Jamal has ties to al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the State Department. American authorities linked Jamal to the September 2012 U.S. embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya. Egyptian authorities rearrested Jamal in November 2012 and discovered letters on Jamal’s computer updating al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on the network’s activities and requesting assistance. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, United Nations, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri is the co-founder of al-Qaeda. He has led the group since the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden. Al-Zawahiri is a former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which merged with al-Qaeda in 2001. He was jailed in Egypt as a co-conspirator in the 1981 assassination of Anwar al-Sadat, although he was later acquitted. An Egyptian court sentenced him in absentia to death in 1999 for a plot against U.S. interests in Albania. In 2014, al-Zawahiri called on ISIS, the Nusra Front, and other jihadist groups fighting in Syria to unite under al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri again called on ISIS to rejoin al-Qaeda’s ranks in 2015, referring to ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “illegitimate.” He asked al-Baghdadi and his followers to help al-Qaeda “push back the attack of the enemies of Islam.” The FBI offers a reward of up to $25 million for information on al-Zawahiri. (Source: Counter Extremism Project, BBC News, Long War Journal, CNN, FBI)

Hani al-Sibai

The United States and United Nations have designed Egyptian-born Hani al-Sibai as a member of al-Qaeda. Al-Sibai reportedly provided legal defense to Egyptian Islamist groups, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), during the 1980s. Al-Sibai requested asylum in Great Britain in 1994 after an Egyptian court convicted him in absentia of plotting terrorist attacks with Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Al-Sibai claimed Egyptian authorities tortured him because of his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Britain denied his request for asylum. Despite calls from lawmakers, al-Sibai remains in Britain because of a legal prohibition against deporting people who could face torture or death upon their return. Al-Sibai reportedly lives with his wife and five children in a west London home worth £1 million. Al-Sibai also allegedly receives £50,000 a year in disability payments from the British government. (Sources: United Nations, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Telegraph, Telegraph)

Al-Sibai has a long relationship with current al-Qaeda leader and former EIJ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri’s reportedly made his April 2014 call for ISIS to rejoin al-Qaeda out of respect for al-Sibai, who requested the reconciliation. Al-Sibai previously called the 7/7 bombings in London a “great victory” for al-Qaeda and called Osama bin Laden “one of the lions of Islam.” Al-Sibai believes jihad is “mandatory” for all Muslims “when Muslim land is occupied by non-believers.” Al-Sibai has claimed during media appearances to be a Middle Eastern political analyst. In March 2015, a female Lebanese news host cut his mic after al-Sibai told her to shut up and yelled that it was “beneath” him to be interviewed by her. (Sources: Long War Journal, Long War Journal, MEMRI, Guardian, New York Times, Telegraph)

Foreign Fighters

At least 600 Egyptians have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to a December 2015 estimate by The Soufan Group. The think tank unofficially estimated 1,000 Egyptians have traveled abroad to fight. Egypt is also reportedly a transit point for ISIS foreign fighters traveling from Africa. Egyptians have primarily joined ISIS and the Nusra Front, though a more precise breakdown of loyalties is unknown, according to analysts. (Sources: Newsweek, BBC News, Middle East Institute, AllAfrica, Daily News Egypt, The Soufan Group)

At least one Egyptian has become a suicide bomber for ISIS. The group released a statement in October 2014 claiming former Egyptian police officer Ahmed el-Darawi had died in a suicide attack in Iraq that past May. Details of where and when the bombing occurred remained uncertain. Authorities suspect he likely died in Syria. More than a year before his death, el-Darawi told his family he was going to Turkey for medical treatment. His family was told he died during surgery on May 29, 2014, and held a funeral for him in Egypt. El-Darawi’s brother reportedly learned the truth after traveling to Turkey to retrieve the body. El-Darawi resigned from Egypt’s police force in 2007, reportedly over objections to operational policies. He appeared in a 2011 documentary about police reform. El-Darawi ran as an independent candidate in that year’s parliamentary elections. (Source: Ahram Online)

At least 600 Egyptians have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Some foreign fighters have returned to Egypt. Authorities arrested a 38-year-old Egyptian man in April 2014 on charges of planning terrorism and coordinating with extremist groups. The unidentified man had fought alongside the Nusra Front in Syria. At least four members of ABM reportedly died in Egypt in 2014 after returning from Syria. (Source: Daily News Egypt)

Former President Hosni Mubarak took a hardline position against Islamists and Egyptians who joined foreign conflicts. His successor, Mohammed Morsi, reportedly loosened Egypt’s policies. In 2013, Morsi removed the names of at least 3,000 militants from Egypt’s most-wanted lists. He also appeared at a June 2013 rally held by hardline clerics. While Morsi rebuffed the clerics’ explicit request to endorse their call for Egyptians to join the fight against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Egyptian analysts viewed Morsi’s presence at the rally as a tacit endorsement. Morsi also pledged the support of the Egyptian military and government to those fighting against Assad. (Source: Associated Press)

After Abdel Fattah el-Sisi replaced Morsi as president in 2014, Egypt passed new legislation limiting travel abroad. Egyptians between 18 and 40 destined for Iraq, Syria, or Turkey must receive government permission to travel. The government also required official permission for travel to Qatar or Turkey as of December 2014. Human Rights Watch, however, accuses Egypt of restricting the travel of NGOs and human-rights activists. A November 2015 Human Rights Watch report documented at least 32 cases of security officials confiscating activists’ travel documents. The organization accused Egypt of “turning the country’s own borders into de facto prison walls.” (Sources: Associated Press, U.S. Department of State)

Al Rawdah Mosque Attack

On November 24, 2017, 25 to 30 militants wearing military combat uniforms and carrying ISIS flags drove five SUVs to the Al Rawdah Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abed in the northern Sinai province. The militants attacked the mosque with automatic machine guns, killing at least 305 and wounding 128 in Egypt’s deadliest terror attack to date. At least 27 children died in the attack. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi promised to respond with “brute force.” There were no immediate claims of responsibility but the Egyptian government suspects ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate, the Sinai Province. The December 2016 issue of ISIS’s newspaper al-Naba specifically mentioned the Al Rawdah mosque and called for targeting Sufis. Nonetheless, ISIS did not immediately claim the attack and some ISIS supporters denied ISIS’s involvement in international media. ISIS supporters on the encrypted messaging service Telegram accused Egyptian intelligence of carrying out the bombing to discredit the Sinai Province. Regional terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas condemned the attack, while the al-Qaeda-linked Jund al-Islam promised retribution against the perpetrators. Ansar al-Islam, which claimed responsibility for an ambush of Egyptian troops the month before the mosque attack, also promised revenge. (Sources: Reuters, Times of Israel, i24, Mada, CNN, BBC News, Reuters)

Attacks on Egypt’s Christian Communities

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. ISIS has increasingly targeted Egypt’s Coptic Christian communities with bombings and other attacks, causing hundreds of Christians to flee their homes in the Sinai. In February 2017, Egypt’s ISIS affiliate released a propaganda video declaring Christians to be their “favorite prey.” That same month. ISIS executed a Christian father and son in the Sinai, burning them alive and then dumping their bodies on a roadside in el-Arish, In February 2018, the ISIS propaganda newspaper Al-Naba published an editorial calling for targeting Christians and tourists throughout Egypt. (Sources: Fox News, Sun, Associated Press, MEMRI)

On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomber exploded during a Sunday morning service in a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The cathedral serves as the headquarters of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian Church and its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II. At least 28 people were killed and 49 wounded in the blast. Pope Tawadros II was out of the country at the time. Egyptian authorities identified 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed Mustafa as the bomber, but no group immediately claimed responsibility. The Hasm movement—which claimed responsibility for an attack that killed six police officers two days earlier—condemned the bombing. ISIS claimed responsibility two days later and threatened additional attacks against Christians. ISIS’s Amaq News Agency identified the bomber as Abu Abdallah al-Masri, differing from the Egyptian government’s identification. ISIS warned in its statement that “Every infidel and apostate in Egypt and everywhere should know that our war ... continues.” In response, el-Sisi called on Egypt’s parliament to draft legislation to allow more “decisive” methods of dealing with militants. (Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Guardian, New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a state of emergency across Egypt after twin ISIS bombings killed at least 45 in two Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria on April 9, 2017. ISIS gunmen attacked a police checkpoint near St. Catherine’s monastery on April 18, 2017, killing one officer. It was ISIS’s first attack on a monastery. On May 26, 2017, ISIS gunmen killed at least 29 Copts traveling to the monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor. ISIS again targeted the monastery on November 2, 2018, killing at least seven and wounding 14 on a bus leaving the site after a baptism. (Sources: CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, Associated Press, NBC News, Reuters)

ISIS Bombing of Russian Airliner

On October 31, 2015, a Russian charter flight to St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh crashed 25 minutes after takeoff, killing all 224 passengers and crewmembers. ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate, Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province), claimed responsibility though Russian and Egyptian investigators were initially skeptical. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Alexander Bortnikov confirmed on November 17 that traces of explosives were found in the debris. An investigation of the downed plane revealed it shattered in mid-air after the detonation of a bomb equivalent to up to 1 kg of TNT. ISIS’s official magazine, Dabiq, claimed the group smuggled on board an improvised explosive device made out of a Schweppes soda can. In February 2016, the Egyptian government acknowledged that terrorists had caused the crash. (Sources: ABC News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC News, Reuters, New York Times)

Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Russia, halted flights to and from Egypt due to security concerns after the crash. Economic analysts predicted Egypt’s tourism industry would face large setbacks as a result. Russians make up close to one in three of all foreign tourists in Egypt. Russia and the United Kingdom account for two-thirds of the tourism industry in the Sharm el-Sheikh resort area. In 2014, approximately three million Russian nationals stayed at Egypt’s resorts out of the country’s 10 million tourists overall, down from 15 million in 2010.  British Airways halted flights to Cairo for a week in July 2019, while Lufthansa also temporarily suspended some of its flights to Cairo that month. The airlines did not specify what prompted the move. (Sources: BBC News, BBC News, Guardian, BBC News, Reuters)

Egypt Bombs ISIS in Libya After Mass Beheadings

On February 15, 2015, Egypt launched airstrikes on ISIS targets in Libya hours after the militants released a video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians. Egypt targeted camps, training sites, and weapons-storage areas. A second wave of strikes immediately followed. In all, the Egyptian airstrikes killed 64 militants. (Sources: BBC News, Guardian, CNN)

The Egyptian victims were kidnapped in separate incidents in December 2014 and January 2015 from the coastal town of Sirte in eastern Libya, where they worked. Libyan jihadists loyal to ISIS posted the video of the beheadings on Twitter. It was one of the first such videos to come from an ISIS affiliate outside of the group’s core territory. (Sources: BBC News, Guardian, Fox News)

Muslim Brotherhood Response to President Mohammed Morsi’s Ouster

Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi suspended Egypt’s constitution on July 3, 2013, and military forces removed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi from power. The intervention followed several days of mass anti-government protests and Morsi’s rejection of an ultimatum from military leaders to resolve Egypt’s worst political crisis since former President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. (Sources: BBC News, BBC News, New York Times, Al Jazeera)

Security forces subdued violent protests by Brotherhood members and supporters, resulting in 14 deaths. The Brotherhood organized a pro-Morsi gathering in Cairo about a month after his ouster. Security forces stormed the protest, killing 500 and injuring 3,700. Forty police officers also died, and 210 were injured. The Egyptian government ultimately declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group following a bombing that killed 12 individuals in Mansoura. The Brotherhood continued to launch violent attacks against the new government in retaliation for Morsi’s removal. The attacks primarily targeted police and military installations. (Sources: BBC News, BBC News, New York Times, Al Jazeera)

The Luxor Massacre

Members of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group IG) terrorist group killed 62 people, including 58 tourists, outside of the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Luxor on November 17, 1997. The attackers posed as security forces to sneak into the tourist area. They indiscriminately sprayed machine gun fire into the crowd and then killed the wounded survivors with knives. The six gunmen escaped the scene, but security forces tracked down and killed them two hours later. (Sources: BBC News, Al Jazeera, Economist, Guardian)

The so-called Luxor Massacre was the bloodiest terrorist attack in Egypt to date. Egypt faced “the biggest crisis in the history of tourism in Egypt” as a result of the massacre, according to Tourism Minister Mamdou el-Beltagi. After previous terrorist attacks had caused a three-year decline in tourism, Egypt was on track to have a record-breaking tourist year in 1997, with 4.2 million visitors expected to generate $4 billion in revenue, expanding the economy by 6.2 percent. The Luxor attack caused the industry to plummet, spurring unemployment. Hotels reported having less than a 20 percent occupancy rate, and some were completely deserted. (Sources: New York Times, Economist)

Egyptian security officials instituted new security measures for tourist sites after the Luxor attack. Larger security presences and searches of individuals’ bags became common around the temples. There have still been recurrent attacks against the tourism industry, despite the additional measures. In 2015, Egypt began installing CCTV cameras around the Luxor sites. (Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, Guardian, Independent)

Assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat

President Anwar al-Sadat won the Nobel Peace Prize after he signed the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel. Many in Egypt, however, accused him of siding with an enemy of the country. Members of IG and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad assassinated al-Sadat on October 6, 1981, during a parade commemorating Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Four army officers broke away from the parade and approached the pavilion from where al-Sadat was watching the event. Thinking they were part of the demonstration, al-Sadat stood to salute the soldiers, and the gunmen opened fire. (Sources: CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, BBC News)

Aboud El Zomor, an IG leader convicted of planning the attack, said the assassination was “to change and provide an alternative leader who could save Egypt from a crisis of the political dead-end we lived in then. I intended complete change, not just the murder of Sadat.” Zomor spent 30 years in prison for his role in the attack. (Source: CNN)

Egypt declared a state of emergency in northern parts of the Sinai after a series of October 2014 attacks killed more than 30 soldiers. The government continued to extend the northern Sinai state of emergency every three months. In April 2017, Egypt declared a three-month state of emergency after ISIS bombed two Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria the month prior. The state of emergency has been renewed every three months since. (Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Al Jazeera, AllAfrica, CNN, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Egypt IndependentAl Jazeera)

Domestic Military Counter-Extremism

The Egyptian military actively fights against suspected terrorist elements within the country. In October 2018, the Egyptian military reported that it had killed 450 suspected militants since the start of a military offensive that February. The military also claimed it had dismantled more than 1,200 explosive devices and destroyed approximately 1,900 vehicles in the same period. On November 16, 2015, Egyptian forces reportedly killed 24 ISIS militants hiding in a cave in the Sinai and captured eight others. In September 2015, the military claimed to have killed almost 300 ISIS members in the Sinai. A series of airstrikes in the Sinai in May 2016 killed 88 ISIS fighters, wounded hundreds more, and destroyed ISIS’s weapons storage facilities, according to military sources. Officials said the strikes prevented planned attacks against the Egyptian military. In early August 2016, the Egyptian military also claimed to have killed Wilayat Sinai leader Abu Duaa al-Ansari. According to an Egyptian army statement, the strike “confirms the successful undertakings of the armed forces to avenge our martyrs and the determination to track down and prosecute all terrorist elements and their leaders wherever they are.” (Sources: Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Press, Times of Israel, Times of Israel, Times of Israel)

In September 2015, the military claimed to have killed almost 300 ISIS members in the Sinai.

Egyptian and Israeli military sources credited Egypt’s offensive with decreased ISIS activity in the Sinai. The sources claimed that from January 2016 to August 2016, ISIS’s Sinai affiliate carried out fewer attacks, resulting in fewer casualties, compared with the same periods in 2015 and 2014. (Source: Times of Israel)

In February 2018, the Egyptian military began an ongoing operation called Sinai 2018 to capture or kill ISIS militants in the northern and central Sinai. The operation has resulted in fewer attacks by the Sinai Province, but it has not put a total stop to them. On September 10, 2021, prominent Sinai Province leader Mohamed Saad Kamel, a.k.a. Abu Hamza al-Qadi, turned himself in to the Association of Sinai Tribes, which coordinates with the Egyptian military. Extremist attacks in the Sinai became rarer in the first half of 2021, though they did not end altogether. In March 2021, the Egyptian government began implementing major economic development projects in the Sinai to further dissuade extremists. Despite the successes of Egypt’s counterextremism initiatives, ISIS’s Sinai Province has continued to sporadically carry out attacks in and around the Sinai Peninsula. (Sources: Al-Monitor, Times of Israel, Al-Monitor)

Egypt does not limit its forces to the Sinai Peninsula, and the military’s use of live fire has resulted in the accidental deaths of civilians. On September 13, 2015, for example, a military airstrike killed two Mexican tourists and 10 others, including Egyptian tour guides, while chasing militants in the Western Desert. The group had wandered into a restricted area, according to the Egyptian government. (Sources: Guardian, Guardian)

Egyptian forces face criticism for extra-judicial killings of detainees. According to Egypt’s Interior Ministry, security forces killed 235 people during raids in 2018. In the first half of 2019, security forces killed at least 153. Complaints filed by victims’ relatives allege that multiple Egyptian citizens detained by security forces have disappeared only to later be allegedly killed in exchanges of gunfire. The U.S. Department of State has also noted numerous cases of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings by Egyptian security forces. The State Department has also noted that Egypt has not held any individual or government body accountable for state violence since 2013. Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have accused Egypt of failing to hold its forces accountable. A September 2021 Human Rights Watch report concluded dozens of alleged armed militants killed in so-called shootouts with Egyptian forces did not pose an imminent danger to security forces or others when they were killed. In many cases, the suspects were already in custody when they were killed. According to Human Rights Watch data, the Interior Ministry announced the deaths of at least 755 people in 143 alleged shootouts between January 2015 and December 2020. During that period, only one suspect was arrested. Human Rights Watch has called on the United States, European Union, and Egypt’s other international allies to impose sanctions on Egyptian officials and for Egyptian authorities to fully investigate incidents of extrajudicial killings.(Sources: Wall Street Journal, U.S. Department of StateReuters, Human Rights Watch)


In July 2017, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for the creation of a National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism. On April 1, 2018, Egypt’s Parliamentarian Committee of Constitutional and Legislative Affairs passed a bill to create a Supreme Council on Terrorism and Extremism. Sisi approved the creation of the council on April 26. According to Egyptian media reports, the new body will address socio-political reasons behind terrorism and extremism in Egypt without impacting individual rights. The new council is charged with mobilizing communal support to combat extremism, creating economic opportunities in extremism-prone areas, and coordinating with security forces. The independent council has the authority to make decisions on existing counterterrorism and counter-extremism policies to expedite terrorism cases in the court system. The council is also charged with amending educational curriculums to instill tolerance and the value of citizenship within Egypt. (Sources: Egypt Today, Egypt Independent)

Egypt passed a new constitution in January 2014. Article 237 committed Egypt to “fighting all types and forms of terrorism and tracking its sources of funding….” Following the December 2016 ISIS bombing of a Coptic Christian church in Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on Egypt’s parliament to draft legislation to allow more “decisive” methods of dealing with militants. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Associated Press)

Egypt adopted a new counterterrorism law in August 2015 in response to the June assassination of Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. The new law protects state security officers from prosecution for using proportionate force “in performing their duties.” It also grants the government wider surveillance capabilities and threatens steep fines for journalists who contradict official government statements on attacks or security operations. The law further mandates prison sentences for those convicted of incitement to terrorism. Those convicted of forming or leading terrorist organizations can receive life sentences or the death penalty. (Sources: New York Times, Al Jazeera, Business Insider)

Press advocates said the law threatened newspapers that could not afford the steep fines of 200,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $25,000 to $60,000) for publishing “false” reports that differ from the official record on security matters. Egyptian Rule of Law Association member and Long Island University professor Dalia Fahmy accused the government of “not protecting the citizenry, but rather protecting the state.” (Source: Al Jazeera)

Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2015 that Egypt has initiated “a series of executive initiatives, new laws and judicial actions that severely restrict” such freedoms as expression, press, association, peaceful assembly, and due process. Malinowski further accused Egyptian counterterrorism legislation of failing to distinguish between “peaceful dissent and violent extremism.” (Sources: U.S. Department of State)

In late 2014, Egypt passed the Terrorist Entities Law, which employs a broad definition that human rights groups fear could be applied to civil society. The law defines a terrorist entity as “any association, organization, group or gang that practices, aims at or calls for destabilizing public order, endangers society’s well-being or its safety interests or endangers social unity by using violence, power, threats or acts of terrorism to achieve its goals.” Designated groups have the right to appeal their designation. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Al-Monitor)

On September 28, 2016, Egypt’s Criminal Court of Zagazig sentenced 40 ISIS militants to life in prison for ties to ISIS, recruiting youth to ISIS, and planning attacks against police and Christians. Twenty of the accused were sentenced in absentia. According to prosecutors, the group’s ringleaders were arrested at Cairo International Airport while trying to leave for Syria and gave authorities detailed confessions. Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of using torture to coerce confessions. (Source: Associated Press)

In 1972, Egypt’s government passed the Dismissal Without Disciplinary Action Act, which allowed the government to dismiss any public employee deemed a threat to state security. On July 12, 2021, Egypt’s parliament passed amendments to the act to include inclusion on Egypt’s terrorism list as “serious evidence” of posing a threat. The amendments allow the government to dismiss employees without prior disciplinary action based on their affiliation with Islamist movements—such as the Muslim Brotherhood—deemed a threat to the country. The amendments also allow for the dismissal of suspects in terrorism cases who are still under investigation or whose trials are still ongoing. Some in Egypt feared the government would use the amendments to further purge any civil servants who disagree with government positions and policies. (Sources: Reuters, Daily Sabah)

Gaza Strip Buffer Zone

In October 2014, the Egyptian government began work to build a buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with the Gaza Strip. The government sought to use the buffer to decrease Hamas’s smuggling through underground tunnels beneath the border. In October 2017, the Egyptian government seized homes along the border area in order to expand the buffer zone. According to a government statement, the additional seizures would allow the buffer zone to expand to a width of .9 miles and length of 8 miles. According to Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian government has evicted 3,200 families  (Sources: Reuters, Agence France-Presse)

Egypt announced plans in September 2015 to buy two new warships from France, due for delivery in June and September 2016. Analysts suspect Egypt is seeking to reinforce its military capabilities in light of the turmoil in neighboring Libya and nearby Yemen. According to Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, Egypt is broadening its focus from insecurity in the Sinai to a regional outlook. (Sources: Reuters, Defense Industry Daily)


Egypt is part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry believes Egypt has a key role to play in the coalition. Egypt has provided logistical and political support and made efforts to prevent the travel of foreign fighters to join ISIS in Syria. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Al Arabiya)

Egypt has not taken military action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq because it is combating the group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has not taken military action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq because it is combating the group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian military did, however, conduct multiple airstrikes against ISIS entities in Libya after the beheading of 21 kidnapped Egyptian Christians in February 2015. El-Sisi has since made failed attempts to convince the anti-ISIS coalition to help destroy ISIS in Libya. The Egyptian air force began coordinating overflights into Israeli air space in 2015 to strike ISIS targets close to the Israeli border. It is the first time Egyptian warplanes entered Israeli airspace since the 1973 war. (Sources: CNN, Al Arabiya, Al Arabiya, Daily Beast, YNet News)

Beginning on May 26, 2017, Egypt launched a series of airstrikes in Libya against terrorist training camps in response to an ISIS attack that killed 29 Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Egypt. According to Egyptian officials, the airstrikes in Libya hit camps belonging to the al-Qaeda-aligned Shura Council. Egypt pledged to continue its strikes in Libya, alleging that the ISIS militants who carried out the attack had received training in Libya. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Reuters, Voice of America)

Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have offered Egypt military assistance to combat ISIS. In December 2015, Egypt joined a Saudi-led coalition of 34 predominantly Muslim nations to confront ISIS. During a March 2015 meeting in Cairo, the Council of the League of Arab States approved a proposal from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to create a unified Arab military force to counter regional security threats. (Sources: CNN, CNN, CNN, Reuters)


While visiting Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017, Sisi publicly denounced Qatari support for international terrorism. On June 5, 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over the country’s support for terrorism. The nations also barred Qatari citizens and closed all of their borders to Qatar. The Egyptian foreign ministry cited Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS, particularly in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The ministry also cited Qatari hostility toward Egypt through the Qatari state-operated Al Jazeera network and other media outlets. Egypt has also accused Qatar of interfering in its domestic affairs. (Sources: Reuters, CNN, CNN, Al-Monitor, Reuters, Agence France-Presse)

In a July 2017 interview with CNN, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry accused Qatar of “supporting radical organizations.” He further blamed Qatar for “human suffering” in Syria and Yemen. He also accused Qatari media outlets of “glorifying terrorist activities.” The four Arab nations issued a series of demands of Qatar earlier that month, which included closing the Al Jazeera news agency. Qatar reportedly rejected the demands. In response, Egypt’s foreign ministry called the Arab demands non-negotiable. (Sources: CNN, Reuters)

On January 4, 2021, Kuwait’s government announced it had mediated a deal under which Saudi Arabia agreed to allow Qatar to use Saudi airspace in exchange for Qatar dropping legal suits against the four nations. Saudi Arabia also agreed to open its land and sea crossings to Qatar as of January 4. The Kuwait-negotiated deal did not address Qatar’s support for terrorism or its ties to Iran. Only Saudi Arabia agreed initially to lift its blockade of Qatar, but U.S. officials reported Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE would soon follow. The U.S. Trump administration supported the deal and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner reportedly helped negotiate the agreement, but U.S. officials denied that recently negotiated sales of more than $760 million in arms to Saudi Arabia and more than $100 million to Egypt were related to either country agreeing to the deal. (Sources: CNN, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera)


Egypt participates in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. In August 2015, Egypt extended its participation in airstrikes against the rebels for six months. Egypt deployed up to 800 ground troops to Yemen in September 2015 as part of a 2,000-plus Arab fighting force. According to an unnamed Egyptian military official cited by Reuters, the death of any Egyptian soldier in Yemen “would be an honor and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people.” (Sources: Al Jazeera, Defense News)

Following the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam denounced violent extremists who cloak their actions in religion but do not follow the teachings of true Islam. He described the attacks as “senseless, heinous, appalling and cowardly” and “an attack against all humanity” as defined by the Quran. Allam called the attackers “products of troubled environments” who “subscribed to distorted and misguided interpretations of Islam that have no basis in traditional Islamic doctrine.” (Source: Reuters)

[The Paris attackers are] products of troubled environments and have subscribed to distorted and misguided interpretations of Islam that have no basis in traditional Islamic doctrine.Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam

Egyptians voiced frustration that the victims of the Paris attacks received greater international outcry than victims of attacks by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Egypt. Columnist Mohammed Amin, from Egypt’s al Masr al Youm newspaper, told readers not to believe President Obama’s words of sympathy. He spread the notion that the United States was behind the Paris attacks and that the Western anti-ISIS coalition was not serious about fighting terrorism. Satirical cartoons of the West’s seemingly double-standard reaction trended on Twitter. (Source: Daily Beast)

Many Egyptians believed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s August 2015 anti-terrorism laws would be twisted to prevent political dissent. “Midnight laws mark the republic of darkness. A law which has been passed, and considers all criticism or dissenting voice or acts that are not to the state’s liking… terrorism,” tweeted human-rights activist Jamal Eid. The editor-in-chief of the Al-Misriyun newspaper believes that “[v]ery dark days lay ahead” for journalists and anyone wishing to share their opinions. (Source: BBC News)

A September 2014 poll by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that only 3 percent of Egyptians approve of ISIS. The study also found that one-third of Egyptians views Hamas positively while 35 percent approve of the Muslim Brotherhood. Only 12 percent of the Egyptian population viewed the United States positively.

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